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Thomas Leigh Gatch
File:Thomas Leigh Gatch.jpg
Gatch as a young Naval officer
Born (1891-08-09)August 9, 1891
Died December 16, 1953(1953-12-16) (aged 62)
Place of birth Salem, Oregon
Place of death San Diego, California
Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1912–1947
Rank Rear Admiral
Unit USS South Dakota
Commands held Judge Advocate General
Atlantic Fleet service force
Battles/wars Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands
Awards Navy Cross (2)
Purple Heart

Thomas Leigh Gatch (1891–1953) was an American naval officer and attorney in the 20th century. A native of Oregon, and grandson of educator Thomas Milton Gatch, he served in the United States Navy as a ship commander during World War II and Judge Advocate General of the Navy from 1943 to 1945. His last command was as commander of the Atlantic Fleet’s service force.

Early lifeEdit

Thomas L. Gatch was born on August 9, 1891, in Salem, Oregon to Claud Gatch and the former Helen Plummer.[1] His grandfather previously was the president of Willamette University in Salem, and both his father and grandfather served as mayor of the town.[1] Thomas began his college career at $3 where his grandfather served as president from 1897 to 1907.[1] However, in 1912, Thomas L. graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.[1]

Naval careerEdit

After college, Thomas spent five years at sea before joining the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAG) in 1919 in Washington, D.C..[1] In DC, he studied law at George Washington University Law School where in 1922 he earned his law degree.[1] Gatch then went back to active duty aboard a ship, before teaching for three years at the Naval Academy.[1]

In 1935, he returned to the JAG’s headquarters where he remained through 1938.[1] Gatch then returned to sea until 1940.[1] That year he began serving as Assistant Judge Advocate General, keeping that post until February 1942 after World War II began.[1] Gatch then became commander of the USS South Dakota, a South Dakota-class battleship.[1] Serving in the South Pacific until December 1942, he distinguished himself in that role in the Pacific Theater of Operations in battles such as the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands during the Guadalcanal campaign.[1][2][3][4] He received two Navy Crosses for his service.[5]

In 1943 Gatch was invalided to shore duty after being wounded in the South Pacific.[6] Gatch became the 16th Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy.[1][7] He remained in that position until December 3, 1945, when he became the commander of the service force of the Atlantic Fleet.[1] Rear Admiral Thomas Leigh Gatch retired from the Navy in 1947.[1]

Later life and familyEdit

From 1945 to 1947 he served as a trustee at George Washington University.[8] Thomas had one sibling, Orytha.[9] He would have three children with his wife; Thomas Leigh Gatch, Jr., Nancy, and Eleanor.[2] His son Thomas, Jr. attended the United States Army’s service academy at West Point[2] and disappeared in 1974, whilst attempting the first ever crossing of the Atlantic by balloon. (See Light Heart) After retiring from the Navy, Gatch returned to his native Oregon.[1] Thomas L. Gatch died on December 16, 1953, in San Diego, California, and is buried there at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.[1][10]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 15885 Gatch, Thomas Leigh Jr. (son) Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  3. Wagons for A.A. Time, Monday, January 11, 1943. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  4. Shalett, Sidney. 1943. Old Nameless: The Epic of a U.S. Battlewagon. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.
  5. GATCH, Thomas Leigh. WW2 Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  6. George Meader Oral History
  7. Judge Advocate General: About Us. United States Navy: Judge Advocate General Corps. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  8. Board of Trustees, Members. George Washington University. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  9. Howe, Sharon. Guide to the Helen Plummer Gatch Photographs Collection 1880-circa 1910. NWDA. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  10. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Retrieved December 19, 2007.

External linksEdit

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